Residents continue to contact us about the temporary telecomms mast that was erected in Chislehurst High Street car park, with virtually no notice, from 30th August.
We have been in regular contact with the Council, Waldon Telecomms and MBNL. We have answered all residents’ queries to the best of our knowledge and held several meetings with those residents most affected. We thank Sir Bob Neill who joined us in meeting residents on Saturday, 30th September.
We continue to share residents’ concerns and dismay at this visually intrusive structure which is having a detrimental effect on their lives and enjoyment of their properties. Although it is a temporary siting, it is for 18 months which is a very significant period.
Here are answers to some of the questions you have raised: –
Why is there a need for a temporary mast?
In a nutshell, MBNL are losing a mast in Chislehurst at 3A-5 Chislehurst High Street and need a replacement. Their site provider gave them no notice to cease the tenancy as they had secured planning consent to extend the building and there was nowhere to relocate the equipment.
They identified Hornbook House car park as being an alternative site which passed all the technical criteria and a landowner who agreed to host a site.
Their planning application received several objections from residents and was refused by Bromley Council as it “would be an obtrusive feature that would appear out of character and appearance of the Chislehurst Conservation Area and harmful to the general visual amenities of the street scene”.
They lodged an appeal in July 2022 and we are now waiting for the planning inspectorate to issue their decision. We are hopeful that a decision will be made soon.
So, it seems that the High Street car park is a temporary site until the appeal above is decided. MBNL tell us “If we are successful, we would look to have the permanent solution in place as quickly as possible meaning the temporary site will no longer be required. “
It remains to be seen what happens if the Hornbrook House site is refused on appeal. Waldon tell us “We are not in a position to confirm any other site details. However, work is ongoing, and should that occur and a secondary site be formalised, we will run consultations as necessary as part of the planning process.”
As Ward Councillors, we are seeking advice from the Council on this regarding the best way to address this with MBNL/Waldon Telecomms.
What locations were considered for the temporary mast location?
Waldon tell us “A number of alternative locations were looked at, including Chislehurst Library Car Park, Chislehurst Recreation Ground, Chislehurst Golf Club, Willows Clinic Field, Sainsbury’s Car Park, Chislehurst Common and a few areas near residential garages.
None of these were considered by the radio planner to be as good an option in terms of coverage requirements compared to the chosen location. This in conjunction to other issues including access to sites, available space and disturbance to operation of sites, meant that these locations were discounted.”
We are very conscious that residents have strong opinions as to mast locations and frequently raise objections to planning applications. This is perfectly understandable as we all want to protect Chislehurst and its Conservation Area but is a real dilemma given we need to extend the 5G connectivity locally.
Was Hornbrook House car park considered as a temporary site?
We were informed “There would not be sufficient space for the temporary site to be located here. Should the appeal for the permanent site be allowed, when going to build the permanent site, if the temporary site was also in this location, there would be the issue of having to switch off the temporary site during the build process, which can be lengthy for a permanent site, before the permanent site is in place and operational, causing issues with coverage loss.“
When was a temporary mast in Chislehurst High Street car park first considered?
Waldon confirm that the site was identified during a search during 2021.
It then went through an approvals process which takes some time. They received an instruction to proceed with the installation of the temporary site when the permanent site was switched off.
They are making efforts to secure a permanent replacement site, and this is now subject to appeal. They confirm that they ”must have a contingency plan to avoid coverage loss.” – hence this temporary installation.
Why did the Council “allow” the temporary mast installation?
Whilst it is technically true to say that the Council has allowed the siting of this mast on land controlled by the Council, the reality from their perspective is that there were not really many options available.
Operators have significant legal powers to site their equipment where they feel they need to. They can serve a written notice on the Council to seek their consent to voluntarily grant the requested agreement to permit use of part of the car parks to locate the mast and ancillary equipment. If the Council’s consent is not given within 28 days they can immediately apply to a Tribunal for agreement to be granted.
A Tribunal is likely to find in favour of the Operator, unless the Council can successfully show that granting the agreement would prevent any planned redevelopment.
On this basis, the Council agreed to the request from the operator.
Whilst we understand the rationale behind this – to make sure that phone masts can be installed where it is deemed they are needed – the outcome, in this case, is of course very far from satisfactory.
When were Bromley Council informed?
Waldon confirm that the emergency notice was sent to the Council on 16th August 2023.
They also say that the Council were also made aware that a site was to be lost from the network and a replacement site required, through the planning application (submitted in March 2022), and subsequent appeal (submitted July 2022) for the permanent replacement site at Hornbrook House Car Park.
What planning permission did MBNL have to obtain for the temporary mast in the High Street car park?
Because this is a “temporary” and moveable structure (albeit for 18 months), and replacing equipment at 3A -5 High Street, it did not need to go through the planning process.
Land can be used for up to 18 months to station and operate moveable electronic communications apparatus including the provision of moveable structures on the land for the purposes of that use
There is no action the Council can take from the planning perspective as there are no further restrictions imposed including locating equipment in Conservation Areas, presumably because any harm is considered to be transitory.
What consultation with residents was undertaken?
None. Surprisingly, there is no requirement or obligation to consult with or even notify residents, given this is a temporary installation. Letters were only sent to the closest residents “as a courtesy to inform them of the fact that the installation is of a temporary nature, and to provide awareness that this is not a permanent solution”.
Notification letters were sent to 78 properties, which directly surround the car park, on Adelaide Road, Albany Road, High Street and Milton Place.
Will MBNL/Waldon be submitting a permanent planning application for Chislehurst High Street car park?
We are informed “There are no plans for this.
Why was this particular location in the High Street car park chosen?
Along with residents, we were aghast to see the mast located in such close proximity to residents’ home.
Waldon say the main factor which drives how this is determined is whether it is a location which is suitable to provide the required temporary replacement coverage.
They believe that the chosen site is a good location technically and provides space for the temporary installation whilst having minimal impact on the operation of the car park and the parking spaces. It is acknowledged that the chosen location would not necessarily be appropriate for the siting of a permanent structure, but it should also be acknowledged that this is a temporary installation, and any visual impact of the installation will be temporary.
We are sure a better location could have been found and are deeply saddened that no discussion on this took place with us and residents.
We have been trying to ascertain if there is a minimum distance from residential properties but cannot find any specific distance restriction. However, the ICNIRP certificate which accompanies these applications apparently shows that the emissions do not exceed agreed tolerances anywhere outside of the immediate operational area.
Why is the temporary mast (27m) so tall? Were shorter roof type/street furniture masts considered and, if so, why were they rejected?
Waldon say: “The requirements for a temporary and permanent site are different. We do not have the same scope to work with in terms of design when working with a temporary structure.”
“A temporary structure must be designed to be temporary and movable, with the height determined by technical requirements set out by the radio planner. It is not possible to deploy a street furniture type of installation as these must be rooted into the ground and cannot be deployed as temporary structures.”
When will the mast be turned on?
We are told “The planned activation date has not been confirmed yet as there are still ongoing works to complete physical deployment, after which there will need to be testing, ….” We are chasing on this!
When does the 18 months commence?
We are informed “The 18 months commences from first use of the installation i.e., when the site goes live.
Does the mast have to be taken down prior to the 18 month termination date or just decommissioned?
The emergency moveable electronic communications apparatus can be stationed and operated for 18 months. After that, the installation would be operationally and physically decommissioned.”
Until the 18 month period expires, the Council can take no further action about this mast.
Do the rules/code allow for an extension beyond 18 months; if so under what circumstances?
Any temporary extension of this siting would be subject to a Full Planning application which would be determined by the Council.
Does the installation breach the lease between the Diocese of Rochester and the Council?
The land on which the mast has been installed is owned by the Diocese of Rochester and leased to Bromley Council.
We are told that landlord consent was provided by the Property Director at the Diocese of Rochester on 9 May 2022. We have asked to see the correspondence. The Annunciation Church were not asked about this permission and received no notification the mast was going up.
Having now seen the lease, we believe that the nuisance it has caused was foreseeable and this is an avenue we are still exploring.
What is happening about the noise nuisance?
Residents raised with us the noise nuisance caused by the generator which was running 24/7 contrary to what was agreed. Bromley’s Enforcement Officer had been informed by the company that “it should only come on for 30 minutes during the middle of the afternoon and if the batteries are low the again at 4.30pm for 30 minutes. The generator has a forced shut down period between the hours of 1900hrs to 0700hrs, ie against the agreement.”
On 18th September, the Council’s Noise team attended the site and the mast was assessed as causing a statutory nuisance due to noise. An abatement notice was served.
Finally on 29th September, the plant was switched off whilst noise abatement panels are designed, constructed, and fitted. It may be switched on for short periods for testing until the order has been complied with; LBB officers will monitor this to ensure the abatement notice is complied with, as will we.
Why has the generator been running if the switch on has not yet happened?
We are advised “For operational reasons, the power is delivered to the site prior to network integration.“
What fuel is the generator using?
Waldon: “As I understand, it is a hybrid diesel generator, which is designed to only run for a very limited period and run the majority of the time off a lithium battery. “
What risk assessment has been undertaken with regard to refuelling the generator?
The access licence issued by the Council’s estates team allows for the generator and the refuelling of it, therefore that permission has been granted as part of the setup.
What health and safety risks are there?
MBNL has said ” In terms of health and safety, all mobile base stations must meet the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) for limiting public exposure to mobile communication network apparatus. 5G installations will have ICNIRP compliance zones where the public will be excluded. The ICNIRP guidelines seek to protect against the well-known thermal effects of radio emissions and include a significant precautionary factor, you can view additional information here: https://www.icnirp.org/en/rf-faq/index.html
Waldon has also made assurances about the safety of the equipment used: “our obligation is to submit the ICNIRP certificate to the Local Planning Authority to ensure that they have a copy of this. We confirm that this has been sent to the Local Planning Authority, and they have confirmed receipt of it. The fact that the installation is ICNIRP certified tells us that every publicly accessible space is safe and will not be exposed to radio frequency fields above the guidelines, this includes all residential properties. It should reassure you to know that the proposal has been modelled by specialists and confirmed that any publicly accessible space is entirely safe. We can only keep confirming that that is the case.”
We are here to support you. So, please do come back with any further questions and we will do our best to seek answers. Please also check for any updates on our social media platforms.
You may also wish to contact Waldon or MBNL:
Cllr Mike Jack
Cllr Mark Smith
Cllr Alison Stammers